Saturday, July 07, 2012

Industrialization and Marriage

In an article I recently published with the Colson Center, I discussed the impact that the industrial revolution had on the family in general and marriage in particular.

In pre-industrial eras, the economic life of the family was tightly bound to the home. In fact, prior to 1800, the vast majority of people around the globe lived and worked in the same place. Whatever else a couple’s relationship may have involved, they were quite literally in business together. The home, in turn, was not a place where people “lived” as a passive activity when they were not doing other things. Rather the home was a small factory, a bustling hub of productivity.

The geographical proximity of home and work had an impact on how couples thought of their relationship to each other. A man and wife did not think of their relationship as something that could be abstracted from their mundane life together in the world, any more than I was able to imagine living abstracted from the actual activities that make up human experience. Sexual activity and economic activity were closely bound together, and both were situated within an ecosystem of obligations, responsibilities, priorities and expectations that were bigger than the couple’s relationship. Because marriage was understood to be bigger than the relationship itself, this helped to anchor marriage in a narrative external to the two participates.

By contrast, at the time of the industrial revolution the locus of economic activity was outsourced away from where people lived. Central power sources like water and steam increasingly drew people to work locations away from the home. But that was just the beginning, as more and more activities that were once performed in the home were gradually outsourced. Gardens shriveled and disappeared as growing was outsourced. Eventually even schooling was industrialized, taken away from the home and from apprenticeship relationships. What began to emerge was a division between the home, on the one hand, and people’s lived experiencing in the world, on the other. My article explains the ramifications this had on marriage. To read my article, click on the following link:

Industrialization and Marriage

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